No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it. ~Paulo Coelho
Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith
July 28, 1974 – August 27, 2013
Tragedy is no stranger to me and my family. It has directly landed on us, suddenly, and with pinpoint accuracy, so I know what dealing with sorrow and confusion feels like. We’ve been wrestling with it for nearly twelve years. I’m not saying I understand it, and I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m not saying I like it. I’m just saying it’s a close friend and I certainly recognize it.
At this particular moment, I’m at a loss as to what to say. I’ve never dealt with such a situation. So instead of my typical format, I chose to write Jen a letter. I’m sure it doesn’t do her justice, to her kindness, beauty inside and out, intelligence, sincerity, adventurous spirit, wit and sense of humor. But my words are sincere and straight from the heart.
My thoughts and prayers are with Jen’s family and friends at this time and always. We have been blessed to know such a wonderful person. The world will not be the same.
If my memory serves me correct, we have known each other since I was in the first grade and you in the third, going to Sacred Heart Elementary School. To be honest, I don’t remember when you officially joined our family because it seems like you were always there. Who would have thought, from that moment on, you and my sister would have become friends for so many years?
Even though you were always Nicole’s best friend, you always treated me as a friend too. I can’t believe it’s been years since those days at Sacred Heart, but we’ve always kept in touch, only due to your continued friendship and sisterhood with Nicole.
Over the years, my family would get updates on how you were doing, what was new and what was going on in your life. Even though Facebook has been the focus of the media for negative uses and development of an anti-social society, Facebook helped us to connect again. Prior to that, even without direct communication, you were always in my thoughts. After all, you were very much a part of the Piper household. I mean even dad remembered your name!
By the time I reached the seventh grade and you in ninth, in the Latrobe Junior High School, I would grin when I saw you in the halls. You would smile and give me a friendly nod. Actually, I think it was more of a laugh, I was always so lost, mentally and directionally. Here I envied you because I thought you were so much more together than I ever was! Even in junior high it seemed like your life would take a straight path to greatness. Well, you certainly achieved greatness, in many ways. But I was wrong, your life took a sudden and fatal sharp turn.
When I joined the colorguard and you were in the band (clarinet), it was nice to know someone among the older strange faces. You never snubbed me or anything of the sort. Actually, you looked out for me, and over the years as we both matured, maybe you more than me, I wasn’t just “Nikki’s little sister”, I was your friend too.
When I heard you were going to school to be a doctor I was so excited for you and I remember thinking, “Yes she is one smart cookie who will have no trouble getting through her studies. She is going to be such a success in life!” You were always such an intelligent girl, it came so natural to you. In that respect, I could see why you and Nicole were always such good friends, you challenged each other intellectually. In my younger days I didn’t appreciate that, but over the years I certainly have.
Jen, you always had such patience. Every time I asked a stupid question like “How can you be an optometrist and not have perfect vision?”, you would answer me. Even though we were private messaging each other or communicating digitally, somehow I could see that Jen smirk. It’s funny, Ryan had the same type of grin.
You may not have realized it at the time, but you were loved! You had a lot of friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors, patients and the list goes on and on, that relied on you in one way or another. There were so many lives you touched, including mine! I know my sister looked up to you and was proud to call you a friend, as was I.
In a way, I think you found me intriguing with my hyperactive nature and my adventurous and creative spirit. You seemed to find those qualities later on in life, whereas I discovered them early. I loved hearing about your skydiving adventures, your running accomplishments and your evenings on your porch with a beer. You seemed to be enjoying the life you made for yourself. I was enjoying it with you!
Did I ever mention I loved hearing about your dogs and especially your chickens! When I heard you were building a chicken coop, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic and pride. Not because you wanted to have fresh eggs, which I didn’t blame you, but because to me that was a sign of you hanging around my family. You were always at the house and down my Uncle Walter’s farm. It was almost like a piece of us up on the ridge was instilled in your very core. You didn’t know it because I never told you, but to me that was a perfect compliment. Now I may have been completely off base with my assumption, but I’m holding onto it.
On a side note, I saw that Facebook post you posted about getting locked inside your chicken coop. I was howling! That was so terribly funny, I still think about it. You certainly found complete humor in yourself, which was a great quality to have!
I don’t know if you remember or not when Ryan died? I bet you do, how can anyone forget that horrible time and grief. The same grief everyone is feeling today. Granted that wasn’t Ryan’s choice to leave us, but it doesn’t make any death easy to accept. I guess that’s why they call it a tragedy. I’m not sure why someone, including you would make that choice. Maybe you really wanted to LIVE and wanted true peace. I’m sure I’m a part of the mix of people you left behind wondering why? Or what could I have done? I mean, that’s natural right? Everyone wants to understand and have a good reason, although in my eyes there wasn’t a good one, however that wasn’t my decision. It was your unfortunate action that cannot be reversed. One that I still can’t fathom.
Life will go on. It always does, but it won’t be as colorful and interesting without you here. I didn’t find out about your passing until early evening on Wednesday and I had the very same shock and confused feeling as I did when I got the news Ryan passed. I guess that’s understandable considering you were family.
Jen, I never thought your days would be short. Of course, when loosing someone, who really thinks that? I suspect you’ve always struggled internally. I suppose I kind of knew that, but I never made mention of it. Perhaps it was because I didn’t understand and I couldn’t identify with it or because I thought at this point in your life all was good. Do I get it now? No! Not even close! Especially the way you chose to leave our earthly world. Why that way? It was so violent. You seemed so happy, but I guess even though pictures can say a thousand words, they don’t show the inside, the truth, just the surface. So I guess pictures can be deceitful lies. I just don’t understand. I mean here I am talking about going to the shooting range this past Sunday. Did I give you the idea? I hope not! You grew up in the Piper household, you knew we respected the guns. Did you forget dad’s rule about never pointing a firearm at another person, even a toy gun? That includes yourself Jen!
I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a person near or far, friend, foe or even complete stranger that wouldn’t have stopped everything that was going on in his or her life to help you. You, Jen were an asset to this life! Did you realize that? Many knew it, I hope you did too! I bet everyone is wishing you would have called them. Nicole would have been at your house in a heartbeat, as would I and many others. Maybe you didn’t know or maybe you thought you had the perfect answer. You were very smart throughout your short life and have done things right, this time your judgement was wrong! If you had to do it again, would you choose the same?
Since you consistently read my blog, I thought it appropriate to give you your very own day, your own story, your ever lasting memorial. Your words were always so kind and encouraging. You used to state how much you loved my writing style and how much you loved hearing what I had to say. I know you were just being nice, but coming from you, that was such a compliment! You truly loved hearing about my silly and sometimes pointless tales, and a few uncontrollable rants. Eventually, this post will be buried by life and other stories that always seem to want to exit my brain and travel down through my fingers, to end up in black and white, but like this post, you will always remain. Remain in the minds and memories of those you knew, and maybe by some you didn’t. You will never be forgotten!
Jen, I hope you are flying in the beautiful blue skies you were made to, and I hope your soul finds the peace it was seeking. God bless!
With much love,
Rest-in-Peace and God Speed Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith!
Jen worked for Leading Edge Eyecare since 2005. I took a screen shot of the website.
Here are a few screen shots I took from Jen’s Facebook page to preserve her memory.